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Crosslake School Board holds retreat on strategic plan

The Crosslake Community School (CCS) Board held a retreat Wednesday, July 16, to discuss the school's strategic plan for the next three years.

The board has identified its core goals in the plan involve academic excellence, community engagement and environmental education.

School Director Todd Lyscio said the strategic plan will allow he and other staff to "develop a framework that helps us avoid reactionary planning."

"What can happen with schools is, it's pretty easy to get caught up by thinking whatever the latest trend happens to be," he said, citing the use of iPads in schools without a clear vision of how the technology will be best used.

The board's preliminary vision includes implementing educational principles developed by Robert Marzano, including the establishment of clear learning goals and the tracking of progress and success. Lyscio said teachers began familiarizing themselves with these concepts at the end of last school year and a full day of fall teacher workshops will be devoted to learning more about Marzano's concepts.

"In schools, we get real good at pushing information to our kids, having them regurgitate it back to us," he said. Instead, he said, they would like students digging deeper into concepts and understanding the impact.

The Pequot Lakes School District also recently cited Marzano's research in establishing the new teacher and administrator evaluation system.

Two years ago, the CCS board set goals for student achievement on standardized testing and in instruction. These goals include 65 percent of third- through eighth-graders meeting or exceeding proficiency on the MCA math test and 80 percent reaching that level in reading. The board also would like to see progress in younger students, aiming for 65 percent of students in kindergarten through second grade achieving grade level or higher in school-administered tests on reading and math.

Lyscio said that although the state has not yet officially released test scores, preliminary results of individual scores at CCS indicate these goals may need to be adjusted upward.

Increased community engagement is another goal of school officials. Students already participate in community events and volunteer projects, such as planting trees with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, cleaning up trash and collecting sneakers for people in need.

Lyscio said the goal is for the school to continue to pursue new opportunities for students to get involved. The plan this year calls for student participation in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, a nationwide initiative to volunteer within communities.

Environmental education is a priority for CCS, in part due to its authorization by the Audubon Center of the North Woods (ACNW), a private, nonprofit 501c3 organization with a focus on environmental education that authorizes 32 schools statewide that "have recognized the importance of experiential and environmental education."

Lyscio said students currently participate in activities and field trips related to environmental issues, but the strategic plan calls for embedding concepts throughout the curriculum, including in science, literature and social studies classes.

Students will learn about land use, erosion and water quality, as examples.

"It's finding ways of what we can do as far as renewable resources are concerned, continu(ing) to reduce our waste ... becoming more intentional about our recycling," he said. "We do all of those things already, but doing more of it."

He added that a project older students might engage in would be weighing the garbage that's created at the school and developing a plan for reduction.

Lyscio said these initiatives are still in the planning stages and the board is discussing ways to measure success.

"Something we really haven't discussed is how we're going to share that back to our community," he said. "Where is stands right now, it has been more internal ... that will be a good next step for us."

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Perkins interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins, and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before becoming the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as the county government beat reporter at the Dispatch and a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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